As a parent, how do you handle your child who is a picky eater? Having more than one picky eater can be a lot of stress.
It’s time to take that iconic old rainbow down from your fridge, parents.
Canada’s highly-anticipated new food guide was unveiled today, and it does away with serving sizes and food groups. Instead, the new guide — which is an image of a plate teeming with colorful and healthy food options — focuses on some more general guidelines such as drinking more water, choosing more whole-grain foods, eating more fruits and veggies, and eating more plant-based protein.
Easy enough, right?
HAHA sure, unless you’re feeding picky eaters trying to live solely off of butter noodles and milk.
The new guide focuses on shifting away from portions and more to proportions, and that’s an easy way for parents to visualize their child’s plate, Kate Comeau, a dietitian and spokesperson for Dietitians of Canada, says.
“Do they see half the plate covered in vegetables and maybe some sliced up apples or grapes, and maybe a quarter of that plate with whole grains and a quarter being that protein food?” Comeau said.
But some parents have the challenge of their kids being fixated on a particular food, like buttered noodles, or drinking so much milk that they’re not eating the food on their plates, Comeau said. This is when parents need to be patient and keep trying.
“The more we can offer that variety and find ways to integrate that variety of vegetables, the better it is.”
How to get kids to eat more whole grains
If your kid loves white pasta, switching to whole grain noodles might seem like an easy swap, but some kids might be put off by the different texture and stronger taste.
The new food guide recommends more whole grains, such as whole-grain pasta.
Try cooking a half-and-half serving, instead, to ease your kid into it, Comeau said. Start adding in a few whole wheat noodles to your kid’s serving of white noodles, and eventually switch over to 75 percent whole wheat, and finally make the full swap.
“This can help ease that transition,” she said.
You can do the same trick with white and brown rice, Comeau noted.
Helping kids discover new foods can be a challenge, but it’s an important one, she said. With school-aged kids, a trip to a bulk food store can be a good opportunity to explore a variety of whole grains and try just a small portion at a time.
Health Canada’s recipe for flatbread pizza using whole-grain tortillas seems like an easy win.
How to get kids to eat more veggies
The new food guide emphasizes the importance of fruits and vegetables, but the latter, at least, isn’t always an easy sell with kids.
Try experimenting with textures when it comes to veggies.
Try offering a variety of textures, Comeau said. Kids might not like cooked spinach, but might be OK with raw spinach, she explained.
“So instead of cooking it into a spaghetti sauce or soup, just serve it on the side and they can eat it by hand or in a salad,” Comeau said.
Carrots, broccoli, and many of the vegetables that we traditionally eat cooked can be more palatable for kids when they’re served raw, she said. Or, your child might prefer their cooked veggies if they’re mashed.
“Having a variety of textures can really help to improve what your child is eating.”
Health Canada’s recipe for mac and cheese with a veggie twist is another kid-friendly way to get some greens.
How to get kids to eat more plant-based protein
The new food guide recommends choosing protein foods that come from plants more often. But some kids will balk at beans and lentils.
Hummus is a yummy way to get plant-based proteins into kids.
Again, it’s important to think about texture, Comeau said.
Nut butter are probably the most kid-friendly plant-based proteins, Comeau said, and a puree such as hummus can make legumes a lot more palatable. And mashed black beans and mashed kidney beans in quesadillas are a great way to integrate these proteins into foods kids enjoy.
“That way your kid won’t be staring down a bowl of beans,” Comeau said.
Health Canada recommends this recipe for creamy hummus.
How to get kids to drink more water
The new food guide says water should be our drink of choice. This can be a tough one for kids who love juice, pop, and milk.
The new food guide recommends drinking more water.
Between this and dairy no longer being its own food group, parents might think their kids should be drinking less milk. But that’s not necessarily the case.
It’s important to remember that the guide is for the general population, and not meant for kids under the age of two, Comeau said. The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) notes that kids age two to eight who are not breastfed should drink two cups of cow milk or fortified soy beverage each day. Homogenized milk is recommended until age two, CPS said on their website, but cow milk is not recommended for kids younger than nine months.
“When kids are younger, having milk … as part of their every day is absolutely a nutritious beverage for them,” Comeau said.
Comeau recommends talking to a pediatrician or dietitian if you’re concerned your child is drinking too much milk and spoiling their appetite for other foods.
In terms of drinking more water, rehydrating during sports and other activities is a good place to start, Comeau said. Rehydrate kids with water instead of juice boxes or sports drinks. If your kid is used to drinking juice with meals, gradually shift over to the water, she added.
While you don’t need to cut juice from your kid’s diet completely, “children don’t need juice,” Comeau said.
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